DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Democratic presidental candidate and hawaii-born U.S. Senator, Barack Obama speaks at a public event held at Keehi Lagoon Park.
Obama greets supporters at Keehi Lagoon Park
Hawaii-born Sen. Barack Obama was welcomed home this afternoon by a sweltering but adoring crowd of thousands of supporters at Keehi Lagoon Park.
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Obama greeted the cheering crowd with a loud "Aloha! How's everybody doing today? Howzit!"
Obama, and his wife Michelle, were joined at the rally by U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Hawaii Democrat Party Chairman Brian Schatz.
He praised Hawaii and told how he explains to people how the state has affected his character and politics.
"I try to explain to them something about the aloha spirit. I try to explain to them this basic idea that we all have obligations to each other, that we're not alone, that if we see somebody who's in need we should help," he said.
Obama said "most importantly, that when you come from Hawaii, you start understanding that what's on the surface, what people look like, that doesn't determine who they are.
"And that the power and strength of diversity, the ability of people from everywhere, whether they're black or white, whether they're Japanese-American or Korean-American or Filipino-American or whatever they are, they are just Americans, that all of us can work together and all of us can join together to create a better country.
"It's that spirit, that I'm absolutely convinced, is what America is looking for right now."
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Obama supporter Patrick Reid proudly wore his Obama t-shirt while he waited in line. On the right is his cousin, Ellana Swine.
He talked about how the country has been divided in recent years and how people are looking for change, the linchpin of his campaign for presidency against Republican Sen. John McCain.
"I think people are hungry for a new politics, hungry for change, and that's why I'm running for president of the United States."
His speech continued with familiar campaign themes, including improving education, an energy policy that stresses alternative sources besides oil, and a health care system that "works for everybody."
He talked about spending billions of dollars in Iraq.
"If we're spending that kind of money in Iraq, we can spend that money in Hawaii" and the rest of the country, he said.
He told the crowd that his trip to Oahu is mostly for vacation, to visit his tutu, relax, adding that he plans to get a plate lunch. "I might go to Zippy's. I might go to Rainbow Drive-in. I haven't decided yet.
"I'm going to get some shave ice. I'm going to go body surfing at an undisclosed location," he said, adding that he plans to spend a lot of time watching his daughters play on the beach.
He ended his roughly 15-minute speech by saying, "I'll see you on the beach."
Before the speech, Abercrombie enthusiastically warmed up the crowd by leading a chant of "Obama, Obama, Obama." Hannemann told the crowd, "Today is the day that we say 'welcome home' to Barack Obama."
Obama's plane landed at about 2:30 p.m. at Honolulu Airport. The Illinois senator answered questions for local media for about 15 minutes and then headed by motorcade to Keehi park near the airport for the rally.
Obama supporters began arriving early today and waited in the blistering sunshine for hours to hear the presidential hopeful.
Honolulu police estimated the crowd at about 3,000.
A teenage girl, overcome by the 88-degree heat, was treated by emergency personnel at the scene but refused to be taken to the hospital.
Before Obama's appearance, Tom Boyle, 47, a filmmaker from Tantalus, came to see his former Punahou School classmate.
"I have actually known Barack since I was 12 years old. He was the first black person I met," said Boyle who added that in the 7th grade Obama's career aspirations were to play pro basketball.
"To me this is the American dream and we all get to be part of it. Anyone of us can grow up to be president," he said.
Kathleen Park, of Chicago, and her husband Jim Kwok adjusted their vacation plans today to see the senator from their home state.
"We were going hiking and crabbing at the beach, but we changed our plans to come to hear the next president," Park said.
Obama and his family are here for a week-long vacation on Oahu, where he was born and spent much of his childhood and where his grandmother who helped raise him still lives.
After the speech, Obama's motorcade took him to the Beretania Street apartment building where his 85-year-old grandmother Madelyn Dunham lives.
Obama, who graduated from Punahou in 1979, is also expected to visit with his half sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, a teacher at La Pietra-Hawaii School for Girls.
Obama is vacationing with Michelle, and their daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7. This is Obama first trip back to Hawaii since December 2006, before he started his run for the presidency.
Obama joked yesterday during an interview on his campaign plane that he was hoping to "lower his profile" during his vacation.
However, he will appear at what is shaping up as one of the most lucrative political fundraisers in Hawaii political history.
The Obama campaign is planning a $2,300-a-ticket event at the Kahala Hotel and Resort on Tuesday which is expected to take in more than $1 million, according to Andy Winer, Obama's Hawaii coordinator.
Obama supporters also have the option of paying $10,000 each for a special VIP reception with the Illinois senator before the fundraiser starts.